By Usman Awwal
A hike in tuition fees in Nigerian public universities, stemming from an eight-month strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), has forced many students to abandon their education.
The protracted ASUU strike, despite numerous meetings, failed to yield an agreement, primarily due to insufficient funding for public universities. Consequently, these institutions found themselves compelled to raise tuition fees.
This hike disproportionately affects students from low-income backgrounds, exacerbating the already high dropout rate. How can an average Nigerian striving to eat three times a day afford fees ranging from N100,000-150,000 per session? This financial strain inevitably drives students away, contributing to a widening educational gap between the affluent and the underprivileged.
Recent data from the Student Loans Company (SLC) reveals a concerning trend. Between August 2022 and August 2023, 41,914 undergraduate students dropped out of their courses—an alarming 5% increase from the previous year and the highest recorded figure since 2018-19.
Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” If tuition hikes persist without a shift in governmental priorities, how many will be motivated to seek the means for constructive change?
The repercussions extend to enrollment challenges, as the financial burden discourages many from pursuing higher education. For those struggling to meet basic needs, education often takes a backseat to more immediate concerns like food and shelter, limiting diversity and inclusiveness in schools.
To rectify this situation, the government must prioritize education by allocating more funds and ensuring their effective utilization. The ASUU advocates for this, citing the government’s neglect of education as a primary cause for escalating fees.
Implementing grants and scholarships can alleviate the financial strain on students from low-income backgrounds. Several states in northern Nigeria have successfully adopted such measures, providing a potential roadmap for others.
Collaboration between the government and the private sector can offer additional funding and resources, fostering sustainable support for education. Crucially, the government must guarantee that earmarked funds are used efficiently and effectively, free from embezzlement.
Exploring alternative educational models, tailored to be cost-effective and accessible, presents another avenue for consideration. Creating awareness about the negative impact of high tuition fees and advocating for affordable education further reinforces the need for change.
In addition, empowering parents and communities through an engagement scheme can actively support initiatives for affordable education. This collective effort, coupled with promoting alternative education models, can significantly alleviate the burden on both students and the educational system.
In conclusion, a commitment from the government to allocate and utilize funds effectively is paramount in addressing the issue of high tuition fees. Grants, scholarships, and collaboration with the private sector can pave the way for accessible education, particularly for students from low-income backgrounds. Empowering parents and communities while exploring alternative education models will contribute to a more sustainable and equitable educational landscape.